For the Love of Food
I really love food. I mean it, I love food. I am so thankful that God gave us the ability to taste flavors. I’m so glad that there are so many different flavors for me to taste. I love strong flavors- sweet, salty, savory, spicy. And I love condiments and dips and seasonings. The combination of flavors makes me happy. I love chocolate, cheese, hummus, sushi, buffalo chicken tenders, samosas, nachos, cinnamon rolls, birthday cake milkshakes, mango pie, apple cake- I could keep going. In fact, I could fill up this entire post with all the foods I love.
Food is an emotional tool for me as well. When I’m happy, I want to celebrate with a nice meal. When I’m sad, I want to eat cookies or ice cream. I cope with food, which is not what I’m supposed to do. I feel like God is happy that we find pleasure in food, but its purpose is to sustain us and keep us going. It’s not to fill emotional needs that should be filled by spiritual disciplines and our relationship with God. And I know that I’m guilty of this pretty much every day.
So when we launched into our first Seven month by tackling food (see this post about the 7 Experiment), I was nervous but determined. My husband and I were experiencing a strain on our finances so we decided to begin our month with a pantry/fridge clean out, meaning that we would only eat what we had. I didn’t stock up before our month started, I started to cut back on groceries so our selection would be simple. Our excess had gotten ridiculous. Instead of eating leftovers on the weekends, we’d go out to eat, leaving meals worth of food in the fridge until they had gone bad. I found myself throwing away at least two or three Tupperware containers with leftovers a week. We spent way too much money on food, and much of it was never eaten.
The shameful thing about my excess is that according to the World Food Programme, 870 million people in our world do not have enough to eat. Malnourishment causes 45% of the child deaths in the world. One out of six children in the developing world is underweight. And even in the United States, 50 million households do not have food security, which means that they do not have consistent access to nutritional food on a regular basis.
….. and I throw out perfectly good food because I’m too selfish to just eat it instead of spending needless money on more? Shame on me.
So we embarked on this month and set some ground rules. For four weeks, we would only eat food we had in our home. We would purchase eggs, two kinds of fruits, spinach lettuce and bread if needed, but other than that we’d be eating food we had. We allowed ourselves one or two ‘cheat’ meals a week where we would be able to eat at my parent’s or at a friend’s house. Nonperishable items or pantry stock items (like sugar, flour, etc) would not be consumed because they weren’t likely to go bad in the month. We’d take food given to us if it was going to go to waste, but we wouldn’t accept any snacks from my parents (my dad works for Kellogg’s so we have access to a nearly unlimited supply of snacks).
It was hard. I ran out of coffee creamer after the first week, and let me tell ya, black coffee is GROSS. We had no chocolate and no cheese in our house after the first few days. I really love cheese, and I really missed my cheese. We ate stale tortilla chips one night out of principle, we didn’t want them to go bad. But we did it. In the entire four weeks, we only spent 55 dollars on food. And we STILL had some spaghetti sauce, a few frozen chicken breasts and pasta at the end of the month.
I learned a few things from this month. I learned that we keep a lot of food in our freezer and pantry. It’s not “fun food” but its still nutritional food. I learned that I really do place a lot of emotional focus on food. When I craved a snack or sweets for emotional reasons, I had to instead depend on God to fill my needs. When that spinach salad just didn’t taste good, I thought about the millions of children who so desperately need the nutrients I took for granted. I also learned that I don’t need as much food as I think I need. We had weeks before this challenge where we spent over 100 dollars on groceries and eating out for two people. I learned that our basic needs were much less and that we could eat nutritional food for far less than what we thought.
I wasn’t perfect during this month. I ate way too many Coconut Dreams cookies with my dad while playing cards one night. I got some disappointing news one day and ate a fourth of a mango pie. One of our cheat meals was at Red Lobster with my parents… and it was all you can eat shrimp….. but besides those few cheats, we ate simply. We spent far less. And I felt better, physically and emotionally. It’s amazing how cluttered life can feel when you have too many choices. I really believe that our excess can add to our stress.
Am I happy to have access to cheese and chocolate again? Yes. I’m back to drinking creamer in my coffee, and we’ve added some diversity to our shopping list. But the food month has changed me, and I am praying that I can stay disciplined to carry this into a lifestyle adjustment. We will spend less on our food, and I will make a more concerted effort to not allow things to go to waste. We also will be doing ‘fridge cleanouts’ more frequently, and will be donating the money not spent to an organization like Hungry for a Day.
This first month was tough, but I learned so much and I was rudely awakened to my excess right away. With so many people in need of even basic necessities, I pray that God will continue to chip away at my extra and increase my generosity.